Author : Sam Clough aka “Hrekka”, Featured Writer

“On my mark,” Tag spoke confidently into the microphone, his voice quiet and assured. The screen in front of him flashed acknowledgment, his robotic army calmly waiting for his word. Tag took a second to survey the battlefield, looking for ambushes, factors that he might have missed. He couldn’t see anything, and he was one to never miss anything that might derail his plans. At school, Tag was the best at every game.


His forces deployed smoothly, their actions seamless, flawlessly choreographed. The fast flyers swept to the north, raking the units on the left flank that the enemy had left relatively undefended. His two-wheelers headed in that same direction, to make as big a nuisance of themselves as they could, to bunch up the enemy for the hammer blow which Tag had devised.

The enemy reacted in just the right way, part of their line folding around to try and deal with Tag’s bikes and flyers. He ordered their withdrawal moments before they were completely cut off. Meanwhile, his tocktanks had been getting the high ground. The tocktanks anchored themselves into the earth on top of a hill in approximately the middle of the battlefield. Then they unsheathed their ‘big’ gun, the object which pretty much dictated the shape of the tank. The main cannon was slightly more sophisticated, and powerful, than the little eighty-eight that the tanks used on the move.

The leader of the tank unit was the first to deploy. Tag liked to give names to his favourite units and weapons, and the massive arclight particle projector cannon unfolding from the lead tocktank was the pride of his army. As the ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’ powered up, he zoomed his screen onto it, patching into the vision of one of the other tanks deploying nearby. At the end of the barrel, he’d added a custom graphic. The smiley face panned out of the angle of his view as the tank to which it was attached selected a target.

Zooming out again, he saw his lurkers take up their positions in a half-circle surrounding the hill, facing the enemy. Tag was confident that they hadn’t been seen. They quickly buried themselves, ready to give the enemy the surprise of their lives. On the hill now, eight arclight cannons had powered up. Each found a target, seemed to hesitate, then a flash sprang from the tip of the barrel, and the tanks rocked backwards, even against the clamps holding them fast to the ground. At the other end of the arc, a hole appeared in the enemy’s lines, bodies flying away from the impact site, torn apart by the force of the blast. The arclights quickly found and destroyed the enemy’s artillery, and calmly picked out all their armour, reducing each one to a burning hull.

The enemy charged the hill with everything they had, an obviously desperate move to stop the cannons.

“If you allow your foe to dictate your actions to you…” Tag whispered to himself. With flicks of his stylus he ordered his flyers to cross and recross the desperate charge, dropping grenades into the mass of men. A little alert popped up, informing him that the last of the enemy’s force has crossed the line of lurkers. He ordered them up, and gave them freedom to attack.

“And let the devil take the hindmost,” said Tag, grinning, “bikes, get ready to chase down any unit which routs.” His vocal order supplemented the quick swishes of his stylus as he switched control from unit to unit, micromanaging to help them through the engagement. Eventually, he had to take the guns of his tocktanks offline to prevent them from damaging the noose of lurkers that was closing around the remaining enemy. A few units broke, and tried to run, but his bikes and flyers chased them down within two hundred metres, and wiped them out.

General Macuillham wiped his forehead, and sighed, staring at the map on the wall charting the robotic army’s victories.

“We know they have Internet access. But how in hell can they be so creative?”

This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows
365 Tomorrows Merchandise: The 365 Tomorrows Store
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow